Brother Bursary funds research for National Collection

Plant Heritage has announced that vital funding from the Brother Bursary has gone towards lifesaving research into a virus which has affected the National Collection of Hesperantha coccinea cvs.
The plants, tested positive for Cucumber Mosaic Virus and an un-named potyvirus in 2011, threatened the survival of the Collection, so a pilot project was set up to find out whether apical meristem micro-propagation of plants from the collection would produce virus free material.
A cash bursary from Brother UK in 2012 meant that Collection holders, David and Penny Ross were able to send a number of cultivars for micro-propagation. To date this has proved successful in 11 of the first 12 cultivars, and sufficient material has been obtained to permit viral testing in three cultivars. All three tested negative for the viruses, which means that the micro-propagation had successfully removed them.
David and Penny are now confident that with good ‘housekeeping’ it should be possible to protect new plugs from re-infection and provided the plants appear healthy they should be able to make material available to others when requested.
Speaking on the project Penny said; “The project has undoubtedly been costly, but having spent so much time and effort building up our collection, and learning about plant genetics, we were keen to keep it intact. A number of excellent cultivars, which are not commonly available, have been identified and it is hoped that sales of these plants will help offset some of the costs that have been incurred.”
Plant Heritage Plant Conservation Officer Mercy Morris said “It is long-term and costly undertaking to clean up a Collection in such a situation and it is a testament to the dedication of the Collection Holders that they have done this. It will be interesting to see whether virus infection has formed a part of the characteristics of the plants we know in commerce.”
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